Workers left guessing as Transport Malta demerger plan is revisited

The government may soon be announcing a major U-turn on its plans to split Transport Malta into three separate entities, while hundreds of the regulator’s employees receive mixed messages about their future.

In October 2021, then Transport Minister Ian Borg officially announced the split of Transport Malta into three separate entities, one each for land transport, maritime transport and the aviation sector. 

Although, according to Borg, the demerger was to be implemented in a few weeks, nothing has happened so far, and sources have told The Shift that there seems to be an ongoing review of this decision.

The sources said that after Prime Minister Robert Abela’s decision to shift Ian Borg away from the sector, Castille has sent signals that it does not agree with the splitting of the entity, particularly due to the added expenditure this would entail: “One entity is already costing millions a year in administration, boards, additional employees, renting of offices and cars, etc. If this becomes three, one can just imagine how the costs will spiral, particularly at a time when the Finance Ministry is supposed to be running a spending review.”

The latest signal given by the OPM that Borg’s announcement will be reversed was the appointment of a new CEO.

Only a few weeks ago, through direct orders from Castille, army commander Brigadier Jeffrey Curmi was appointed CEO of Transport Malta.

Originally, Curmi, who was promoted to AFM commander by the Labour Party following a record four promotions in four months, was meant to become CEO of the new Maritime Authority. However, this plan was not followed through with the OPM ordering the new Transport Minister, Aaron Farrugia, to appoint Curmi to Transport Malta instead.

According to the sources, to avoid Curmi having to go through an embarrassing grilling in front of Parliament’s Public Appointments Committee, he was only made CEO and not chairman too, as had been his two predecessors. The post of chairman is still vacant.

Curmi is known for his closeness to Labour, particularly to the family of disgraced former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat.

Asked directly by The Shift whether the announced Transport Malta demerger is still on the cards, both Minister Aaron Farrugia and his spokesperson, former Malta Today reporter Tia Reljic, did not reply.

Transport Malta has served as Ian Borg’s main vote winning vehicle for years, with hundreds of new employees, particularly from his electoral districts, having been hired by the entity without any formal recruitment process.

This increased Transport Malta’s payroll by many millions of euros a year.

Also, under Borg, Transport Malta became synonymous with the issuing of hundreds of direct orders worth millions of euros every few months. 

In one of the latest scandals revealed by The Shift just a few weeks before the general elections, Borg approved 20 direct orders in one day, worth 500,000, for the launch of the so-called Metro project. 

The beneficiary company, TEC Ltd, was also responsible for providing services during Borg’s personal electoral campaign. 

So far, Transport Malta has failed to produce the 20 contracts it awarded in that one day to TEC Ltd – also the main contractor behind Labour’s mass events.

After the general elections in March, Ian Borg was shunted far from any entity with high budgets and tenders, and was appointed instead to the foreign ministry.

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